Got plants? If so, your health will thank you Lifestyles

Whether planting a small container garden on a patio or tending a large backyard vegetable plot, gardening offers positive health impacts that can advance the well-being of all Virginians. Through research-based horticultural education, Virginia Cooperative Extension can help make these positive health benefits accessible.

Molly Beardslee, an associate Extension agent in Page County, and Kimberly Hoffman, an Extension agent in Stafford County, recommend gardening as a source of physical exercise and as a way to improve mental health. For example:

  • Pulling, digging, reaching and twisting as part of gardening is considered light aerobic exercise, which can help improve heart and lung health.
  • Gardening can help reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms, lower your heart rate and cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and increase positive emotions.
  • Gardening can help combat loneliness and isolation by creating social connections, which is more important as people age.
  • Research shows that gardening can increase self-satisfaction by giving individuals a sense of purpose, and it can help form better social networks.

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Beardslee and Hoffman have seen the positive impacts of gardening firsthand.

“We have a cooperative-style community garden in Page that is a great site for people to interact with one another,” Beardslee said. “Especially in the last few years, it’s been a great spot for senior center groups to come and get outside and get some produce.”

As they grow and strengthen Virginia’s horticultural communities, Virginia Cooperative Extension agents and Extension Master Gardeners are working to connect all Virginians with opportunities to experience the positive effects of gardening. Through research-based community education, local Extension offices connect you with the information, encouragement and community relationships needed to grow as a gardener.

“Extension meets people where they are,” Beardslee said. “If you’re just starting with gardening, if you’ve got limited mobility or just a patio, Extension can provide education on gardening through our publications and the great resource of our Extension Master Gardeners.”

Beardslee and Hoffman are authors of the new Extension publication “Gardening for Health: Benefits for Adults,” available on the Virginia Cooperative Extension website at https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu (type the full title into the search field ).

Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners work in communities across the commonwealth to share knowledge and implement horticultural research that advances the well-being of all Virginians.

Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth. To learn more about gardening or join a community group of other passionate gardeners, contact your local Extension Master Gardener unit by searching for your county at https://ext.vt.edu/offices.html, or on Facebook.

– Submitted by Devon Johnson, Virginia Tech

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